Good afternoon, readers.
Today marks the beginning of a healthcare blitz by the burgeoning Biden administration.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden began taking long-awaited steps to undo several health care policies and administrative directives from the Trump administration. While these steps are shrouded in the fog of the COVID pandemic, they also reveal a lens in Biden’s thinking about health policy in general and the direction he wants to take it.
As for COVID, the administration is poised to reopen the Affordable Care Act’s individual insurance marketplaces, which provide subsidized coverage to people who don’t have insurance through an employer or other public program such as Medicare.
With millions of Americans losing their jobs in the course of the pandemic, this would give people another three months to enroll during a special enrollment period. Normally, you can only sign up for insurance for a certain period of months at the end of the year, which is a policy designed to keep someone from buying a plan only when they are sick.
But there’s one more order Biden is issuing on Thursday that could have more long-term policy impact: instructing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to re-examine a Trump-era policy that allows states to raise work requirements. to people who want to sign up for Medicaid, the health program for some of the poorest Americans. Such requirements have previously been dropped by the courts and will eventually end up in the Supreme Court. Other changes include easing restrictions on federal funding for clinics that offer abortions.
Many of these orders have to trickle down the rungs of the administrative state and likely make their way through the legal process.
But the American Medical Association (AMA), the largest trade group of doctors in the country, praised the first steps. Opening ACA scholarships provides a vital lifeline at a time when people are losing their insurance as a result of layoffs due to the pandemic, the organization said in a statement. “We also welcome the government’s move to remove barriers to Medicaid enrollment, thereby repairing gaps in the health care safety net.”
More widespread changes require action from Congress, as administrative policy does not have the same lasting power as a law, as shown by Biden’s undoing of Trump-era rules.
Read on for the news of the day and see you next week.